Research War Stories: 'You will need to come to the station house...'
The popular War Stories column, which presents humorous tales of life in the research trenches, has historically been compiled by Art Shulman, president of Shulman Research in Van Nuys, Calif. Each month in our e-newsletter we feature a few anecdotes from past War Stories columns and over time, we have received a handful of submissions from our e-newsletter readers who want to share their own outlandish, quirky or otherwise entertaining experiences of research gone just-slightly awry. You will find one of these such stories below.
As a bright, young graduate of an MBA program, Bernadette DeLamar recalls joining a consulting firm that actually went so far as to collect consumer data as a basis for analyses and recommendations to clients.
During her second month with the firm, DeLamar was sent to London to spend several weeks managing fieldwork. The firm's local fieldwork vendor had arranged for daytime use of a music club/nightspot on Oxford Street in central London, leaving the researchers to recruit consumers as they passed by. The recruiters would usher screened respondents into the club to review various product samples and complete a PC-based questionnaire.
On the third afternoon of what had been quite a successful recruit, a constable and a bobby (clutching a stack of clipboards) entered the venue and asked for the person in charge. That, of course, was DeLamar. She was informed that her recruiters (all of whom were middle-aged ladies in tweed suits and sensible shoes) were being arrested on suspicion of soliciting and were now seated in the back of a paddy wagon. It seems that the shopkeeper next door had resented the fact that the recruiters were walking past his doorway and on his doorway tiles and had called the police.
The constable said to DeLamar "Madam, we have had a complaint and you will need to come to the station house with us along with your ladies to investigate this charge."
DeLamar asked for a moment and frantically called the head of the local fieldwork agency who talked the constable into releasing her recruiters - and herself - on the condition that they would refrain from coming within 10 feet of the entry of the shop next door. Further, the head of the agency also had to display, in person, his credentials and evidence of a legitimate business to the sergeant at the local station, which he did within the hour.
There are any number of morals to this story, but it is up to the reader to decide.
Marketing research is not the world's oldest profession after all.
Always know the phone number of the person who can bail you out.
Setting boundaries is important so always have sidewalk chalk in your fieldwork kit.